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The Last Seat In The House: The Book. Now Available

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Dan Mortensen:
On the first page of this subform, there's a post by the late Tom Young announcing a documentary by the same name and about the same subject, i.e. a biography of sound pioneer Bill Hanley. I haven't been able to tell that the film was ever released as more than a trailer, but the book is now out and mine came two days ago.

I've read about 30 pages so far, and it's much more than a person's bio; it's more of a bio of our industry centered around one of its major participants. So far, I've learned (among many other things) that the first PA to cover 50,000 people was put together in 1919 (I think, not looking at it now) by the guys who created Magnavox, Peter Jensen and Edwin Pridham.

That's part of a timeline in the first few pages of significant moments in the development of sound reinforcement, as well listing the early people and companies who did those things. Of course, such a subjective list will leave out people and occurrences that someone else would think important, but it's still a good effort and includes info I've never seen collected in one place.

The author, John Kane, and Bill Hanley were at the last NYC AES in the audiohistory.org booth for the duration, and it was the highlight of my convention experience to talk with both, and especially Bill, for over three hours across two days. Bill was exceptionally generous with his time and seemed to enjoy questions that were outside of the usual, from someone (me) whose career started a few years after Woodstock. As those who were in or getting into the sound business back then are well aware, there were problems that were only solvable through invention, and it was fun hearing how he solved some of them.

I hope John sells a ton of these books, and remind you that if you are in the sound business as a business, looking into the history of your business and having to spend some money on that should be a business expense for you at tax time.

Just saying.

I've been reading a bunch of books about Woodstock since last year and am looking forward to what this one will say about it, and was deeply enriched hearing what Bill had to say directly last October. I'm hoping they will do a book tour and come to Seattle so our AES Section can also hear first-hand. And maybe yours, too.

David Sturzenbecher:

--- Quote from: Dan Mortensen on January 30, 2020, 02:17:23 pm ---On the first page of this subform, there's a post by the late Tom Young announcing a documentary by the same name and about the same subject, i.e. a biography of sound pioneer Bill Hanley. I haven't been able to tell that the film was ever released as more than a trailer, but the book is now out and mine came two days ago.

I've read about 30 pages so far, and it's much more than a person's bio; it's more of a bio of our industry centered around one of its major participants. So far, I've learned (among many other things) that the first PA to cover 50,000 people was put together in 1919 (I think, not looking at it now) by the guys who created Magnavox, Peter Jensen and Edwin Pridham.

That's part of a timeline in the first few pages of significant moments in the development of sound reinforcement, as well listing the early people and companies who did those things. Of course, such a subjective list will leave out people and occurrences that someone else would think important, but it's still a good effort and includes info I've never seen collected in one place.

The author, John Kane, and Bill Hanley were at the last NYC AES in the audiohistory.org booth for the duration, and it was the highlight of my convention experience to talk with both, and especially Bill, for over three hours across two days. Bill was exceptionally generous with his time and seemed to enjoy questions that were outside of the usual, from someone (me) whose career started a few years after Woodstock. As those who were in or getting into the sound business back then are well aware, there were problems that were only solvable through invention, and it was fun hearing how he solved some of them.

I hope John sells a ton of these books, and remind you that if you are in the sound business as a business, looking into the history of your business and having to spend some money on that should be a business expense for you at tax time.

Just saying.

I've been reading a bunch of books about Woodstock since last year and am looking forward to what this one will say about it, and was deeply enriched hearing what Bill had to say directly last October. I'm hoping they will do a book tour and come to Seattle so our AES Section can also hear first-hand. And maybe yours, too.

--- End quote ---

If you are an AES member they have a nice interview with Bill Hanley here:
http://www.aes.org/live/?cat=Legends#cbp=./?ID=99&nowrap=true

It looks slightly dated but still plays well. Be sure to check out the other videos on that AES page.  There are some real gems.

Chris Hindle:
Thanks for the heads Up.
I just ordered my copy....
Chris.

Dan Mortensen:

--- Quote from: David Sturzenbecher on January 30, 2020, 05:00:21 pm ---If you are an AES member they have a nice interview with Bill Hanley here:
http://www.aes.org/live/?cat=Legends#cbp=./?ID=99&nowrap=true

It looks slightly dated but still plays well. Be sure to check out the other videos on that AES page.  There are some real gems.

--- End quote ---

Thanks for the reminder of that link. I think they've redone their video page so it's both easier and harder to find videos of interest.

The first eight minutes or so of that video is about the first 38 pages of the book, with fewer details about some things and more about others. I'm going to read more before watching more.

One note: the author points out repeatedly in the early part that he is not a sound engineer, and it shows. Page 38, talking about Voice of the Theaters: "They got 500Hz of passive crossover, which was fairly standard." Not really any mitigating context.

There is a little reading around the words necessary, but I'm enjoying it.

Dan Mortensen:

--- Quote from: Dan Mortensen on January 31, 2020, 04:59:08 pm ---There is a little reading around the words necessary, but I'm enjoying it.

--- End quote ---

Finished it last night, and while there are indeed numerous statements of technical fact in it which would make any of us roll our eyes, as a history of large concert sound with first-person statements from many, many people who were involved in it and/or affected by it, it's a fascinating read and puts a lot of pieces into both perspective and context.

I also very much like it because while it ends with Hanley's exit from the PA business due to poor financial acumen which didn't match his technical prowess and innovation (as well as being seemingly disinterested in maintaining the gear that he so carefully made/invented*), he is still kicking and active in life and is getting the recognition he deserves from this book. I like reading a biography that doesn't end tragically.

Some of his innovations (my list, not necessarily the book's):

First to use physically big speakers (at that time developed for large movie theaters) for concerts.

First to use semis to haul PA's around.

First to use air conditioners to keep amps cool in summer outdoor heat.

Possibly first to use multipair cable as snakes.

First to use CM Lodestar (or any) chain hoists to lift PA's by inverting the gravity-dependent contact mechanism so they'd climb the chain rather than lift it.

Possibly the first to point speakers at the artists so they could hear themselves, unleashing a demon that we continue to deal with today....

Probably the first to have enough PA gear to be able to combine PA systems from smaller gigs into one big PA for large gigs, and know how to do it efficiently.

Certainly first to systematize festival sound for the most efficient presentation of multiple acts over multiple days.

Also certainly first to systematically design PA installs for rock shows.

Undoubtedly more, too.

It's an enjoyable read. I'll be curious to hear other thoughts.

* There are numerous stories of him going around at gigs with a soldering iron wrapped about his neck, fixing things that needed fixing. People ID'd that as "mad scientist" type stuff.    That blows me away, because when you are doing that at the gig you are only showing how ill-prepared you are, by doing things that should have been done at the shop or solved by having spares. IMO.

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